Brown backs Ashton for EU foreign affairs chief

BRUSSELS Thu Nov 19, 2009 5:53pm GMT

Catherine Ashton delivers a speech during the conference on ''BusinessEurope - Going Global: the Way forward'' at the EU Commission in Brussels October 28, 2008. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Catherine Ashton delivers a speech during the conference on ''BusinessEurope - Going Global: the Way forward'' at the EU Commission in Brussels October 28, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown backed compatriot Catherine Ashton on Thursday to become the European Union's foreign affairs chief, his spokesman said.

Brown made the decision after accepting former prime minister Tony Blair had no chance of winning the new post of EU president.

Ashton, the EU trade commissioner, had earlier won support from European Socialist parties for the foreign policy job, making her front-runner for the post.

"What has been concluded is that the preferred candidate for the high representative role is going to be an existing commissioner and a woman, and that's Cathy Ashton," the spokesman said.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft, writing by Marcin Grajewski, editing by )